previous next

[709] Louisiana volunteers, Colonel Marke; both of my brigades which had preceded me some six or ten days. Colonel J. L'Antry, ordered here by General Bragg, was found in command, pushing the works forward vigorously through his Chief Engineer, Captain D. B. Harris, who afterwards remained with me in the same capacity until most of the works were completed. From the twelfth until the eighteenth, the works were pushed forward night and day with all possible vigor, at the end of which the First division of the Federal fleet, together with transports, carrying some three thousand men, made their appearance and found us in a condition to dispute, with a fair prospect of success, a further advance; that is to say, six batteries were complete, the cannoniers at their posts and fairly drilled. The arrival of this advanced division was immediately followed by a demand for the surrender of Vicksburg and its defences, couched in the following terms:

U. S. S. Oneida, near Vicksburg, May 18, 1862.
To the Authorities at Vicksburg:
The undersigned, with orders from Flag-Officer Farragut and Major-General Butler, respectfully demand, in advance of the approaching fleet, the surrender of Vicksburg and its defences to the lawful authorities of the United States, under which private property and personal right will be respected.

Very respectfully, yours,

J. Phillips Lee, U. S. N., commanding Advance Naval Division. P. Williams, Brigadier-General.

The subjoined reply was returned:

headquarters Vicksburg, May 18, 1862.
Sir: Your communication of this date, addressed to the authorities of Vicksburg, demanding the surrender of the city and its defences, has been received. In regard to the surrender of the defences, I have to reply that, having been ordered here to hold these defences, my intention is to do so as long as it is in my power.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

M. L. Smith, Brigadier-General, commanding. J. Phillips Lee, U. S. N., commanding Advance Naval Division.

I here remark that the citizens of the town had, with great unanimity, made up their minds that its possession ought to be maintained at all hazards, even though total demolition should be the result. This determination was enthusiastically concurred in by persons of all ages and both sexes, and borne to my ears from every quarter. Thus cheered on and upheld, the defence became an affair of more than public interest, and the approving sentiment of those so deeply interested unquestionably had its influence on the ultimate result, as affairs stand to-day. Our cause probably needed an example of this kind, and assuredly a bright one has been given. The inhabitants had been advised to leave the city when the smoke of the ascending gunboats was first seen, under the impression that the enemy would open fire immediately on arrival; hence, the above demand found the city sparsely populated, and somewhat prepared for an attack, although, when it really commenced, there were numbers still to depart, besides many who had determined to remain and take the chances of escaping unharmed, a few of whom absolutely endured to the end. As bearing immediately upon the defence of this place, measures had also been taken to push the Arkansas to completion. It was reported the contractor had virtually suspended work; that the mechanics and workmen were leaving; that supplies were wanting; finally, that a very considerable quantity of iron prepared for covering her had been sunk in the Yazoo River. Steps were taken to promptly furnish mechanics and supplies, and a bell-boat being obtained and sent up to the spot, the prepared iron was soon recovered. It was considered fortunate that, soon after this, Captain Brown was assigned to the duty of completing the boat, as after his assignment this important work gave me no further concern. The enemy remained apparently inactive until the twenty-eighth, during which time the advance division of the fleet was joined by other gunboats, making ten in all. My force had, in the meantime, been increased by the twentieth and twenty-eighth Louisiana volunteers, numbering for duty some five hundred each, by five companies of Starke's cavalry; one battery; Wither's artillery, Captain Ridley; and four companies Sixth Mississippi battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Balfour; but all were troops just mustered into service, and indifferently armed. These were thrown forward toward Warrenton, and disposed for disputing inch by inch the approach by land. This force was subsequently increased by the Fourth and fifth Louisiana. The ensuing ten days I consider the most critical period of the defences of Vicksburg. Batteries incomplete, guns not mounted, troops few, and both officers and men entirely new to service, and not a single regular officer to assist in organizing and commanding. Had a prompt and vigorous attack been made by the enemy, while I think the disposition made would have insured their repulse, still the issue would have been less certain than at any time afterwards. The enemy opened fire on the afternoon of the twenty-fifth for the first time, and continued about two hours, apparently with a view of getting our range. The orders given to the batteries were not to return their fire at extreme range, and at ordinary range only at considerable intervals. This policy was adhered to throughout, at first, because little ammunition had then arrived; afterwards, for the reason that our works could not be injured by

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
J. Phillips Lee (2)
Wither (1)
P. Williams (1)
W. N. Starke (1)
M. L. Smith (1)
Bromfield Ridley (1)
Marke (1)
J. L'Antry (1)
D. B. Harris (1)
Farragut (1)
William Butler (1)
Joseph E. Brown (1)
Braxton Bragg (1)
Joseph D. Balfour (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 18th, 1862 AD (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: